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D&D General "Hot Take": Fear is a bad motivator


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jayoungr

Legend
Supporter
It impacts it all the same, one cannot suggest changes to the game without studying the impact on the entire system.
It's not about removing removing risk, challenge, uncertainty, or consequences, as you stated. It's about finding consequences that are effective motivators for your group of players and leveraging those.

Which, if your players/PCs are the greedy types, can be quite effective. If they're not, it isn't.
That's the point. There is no one-size-fits-all consequence that's going to motivate every group to play in a fun and engaged manner. And that includes character permadeath.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
"What does a player do during the rest of the session when their character dies?" is another completely legitimate and valuable discussion that is highly unlikely to happen with the introduction OP provided.
That wasn't the point, though. The point was to counter the idea that non-participation doesn't happen or that the OP was talking about permanent non-participation.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I don't see how you're getting the idea that anyone in this thread wants success to be a given and consequences to be nonexistent.
I certainly get the idea that some want success to be a near-constant and failure to be just a speed bump rather than a hard loss.

Note I say failure rather than consequences. They're different. Failure happens here and now and has to be dealt with here and now; consequences happen later and thus can sometimes be mitigated or avoided.
 

And that's great, for your group. A problem arises when people try to make this a universal rule that "should" be applied to all tables. I can't tell you how many "advice to the DM" videos and columns I've seen that say, as an absolute principle, that the DM should always make sure players fear for their characters' lives, because it will make the game better. That's simply not true for every group, mine being exhibit A to the contrary.
Fear is super-level event. In the wash it is stepped, actually: anxiety>doubt>fear>terror. Perhaps people conflate this incrementalism with fear alone. IME, anxiety and doubt should always be present, and fear is a greater in-game manifestation resulting from unfolding events and is not present otherwise. Doubt and anxiety should be present considering the fantastic (unknown) medium one is working within.
 


It's not about removing removing risk, challenge, uncertainty, or consequences, as you stated. It's about finding consequences that are effective motivators for your group of players and leveraging those.
Isn't this a convoluted way of saying that one doesn't like fear as a motivator (not a conclusive argument even, all opinion) and suggests finding alternatives? But yet the OP has not really described what "fear" is in that sense, just that it is not liked. As I noted elsewhere, fear is a super event and not a constant in any game I have ever played. Anxiety and doubt are. So is the OP actually objecting to fear or is he posing and oppositional viewpoint to style which he sees as a constraint to his and his group's style? I am tending to see the latter.
 

loverdrive

Makin' cool stuff
Publisher
So, by reading this perhaps a bit differently than you wrote it, you've more or less replaced death with loss of possessions as your hard
No. I remove hard-loss — you can't lose my game.

Your character, on the other hand, will lose a ton of stuff, important and personal. They will lose their heirloom sword, the vessel of their ancestors' spirits. They will lose their grimmoir, their Magnum Opus, all the research and breakthroughs they made to understand the greater laws of magic. They will lose their families, their sons and their lovers.

Oh God will they lose. The cruel world will chew them and spit them out, forever changed, and more often than not, changed to the worse.

Without any sort of hard-loss potential we're drifting into participation-medal territory - no winners, no losers, everyone gets a medal just for entering the race - which makes the race itself completely meaningless.
I don't see anything wrong with participation medals — the real medals are the friends we made along the way or something.

I'm not particularly interested in testing, whether the players can beat the game, and as a player, I can't say that I feel any importance in the fact that my character has survived the Tomb of Horrors.

What I am interested in is seeing how characters would react to hardships, how would they change and develop.
 



Mort

Legend
Supporter
I certainly get the idea that some want success to be a near-constant and failure to be just a speed bump rather than a hard loss.

Note I say failure rather than consequences. They're different. Failure happens here and now and has to be dealt with here and now; consequences happen later and thus can sometimes be mitigated or avoided.

I've certainly found that both success and failure have to be present for true enjoyment.

If success is constant with failure never an occurrence then the success doesn't actually mean anything - it's a given. Players will likely have less fun when there is no true challenge to overcome.

Conversely, if failure is constant - no matter what the players do they never seem to get even a small scale win condition - that too, is a huge fun dampener as players will likely stop putting any sort of effort in.

The key is to ensure that success is possible but failure is also possible. And ideally success is more possible than failure and happens more often but that failure never ceases to be a possibility and still occurs enough for the players to not take success for, in any way, granted.

The above seems obvious, but I've seen way to many campaigns (not just D&D) where even small scale success is so fleeting that players get bogged down and just lose interest.
 

jayoungr

Legend
Supporter
Isn't this a convoluted way of saying that one doesn't like fear as a motivator (not a conclusive argument even, all opinion) and suggests finding alternatives? But yet the OP has not really described what "fear" is in that sense, just that it is not liked. As I noted elsewhere, fear is a super event and not a constant in any game I have ever played. Anxiety and doubt are. So is the OP actually objecting to fear or is he posing and oppositional viewpoint to style which he sees as a constraint to his and his group's style? I am tending to see the latter.
I'll let the OP speak for himself about what he meant. For myself, it means I need to find things that my group enjoys betting on the whims of the dice for--whether that's treasure, prestige, honor, or yes, their characters' lives--and put those things at stake. But I want to do it in a way that makes the players feel like they can engage with the situation, have an idea of where the risks are, and can use the tools at their disposal in pursuit of the things they want--with the understanding that they may not succeed and that something logical will happen if they don't.

If that is what some on this thread call fear, then we're just arguing semantics. I might call it concern. To me, fear means the players are starting from a place of worry and timidity, and they avoid engaging because their highest priority is avoiding failure. I'd rather see players whose highest priority is trying for success because the consequences of failure are not something they'd do absolutely anything to avoid. This is not the same as the DM guaranteeing that they will succeed, or that nothing at all will happen if they fail.

(Vaalingrade's post about horror movies also seems applicable here, with the note that some people who dislike jump-scares may be fine with more sustained or street-level horror. I have a friend who'll lap up creepy or gory movies but was deeply disturbed by Trainspotting, saying it was "too real.")
 


It's probably worth noting that in board game circles, this is considered bad game design.
Haha!! Diplomacy is considered one of the most innovative games ever invented. So was Monopoly. Citations please. I know Michael Gray personally and he would laugh at this. Having won a Charles Robert's Award for BG design myself I really doubt that anyone of any worth would suggest this. Hahhahaha! Best laugh I've had in years! Thank you!!!!:p
 


Haha!! Diplomacy is considered one of the most innovative games ever invented. So was Monopoly. Citations please. I know Michael Gray personally and he would laugh at this. Having won a Charles Robert's Award for BG design myself I really doubt that anyone of any worth would suggest this. Hahhahaha! Best laugh I've had in years! Thank you!!!!:p
Well, Monopoly is rank 20,535 out of 20,542 ranked games on BoardGameGeek, so calling that a paragon of good design doesn't seem like a strong argument. It's better than The Game of Life (rank 20,536), so I guess it's not the worst.


But I'll abstain on Diplomacy. I've never played it and it's ranked 614 (top 3% of all games), so either the mechanic is used well or the game's so good one flaw isn't worth mentioning.

(Although the most recent review I could find notes that "You need 7 players who are simultaneously ruthless and congenial, are willing to sacrifice half a day and are okay with practically guaranteed player elimination." Not an endorsement of the mechanic.)

 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
This smacks as a "badwrongfun" type thread.

Then it's a badwrongfun reaction to a different thread which is also a badwrongfun reaction? We on the two wrongs make a right road now?

Mod note:
If that's all you have to offer the thread, it is time for you to leave it.

It is perfectly reasonable to discuss and critique the effectiveness of a game aspect or technique at achieving some particular end.
 

Haha!! Diplomacy is considered one of the most innovative games ever invented. So was Monopoly. Citations please. I know Michael Gray personally and he would laugh at this. Having won a Charles Robert's Award for BG design myself I really doubt that anyone of any worth would suggest this. Hahhahaha! Best laugh I've had in years! Thank you!!!!:p
Anyways, before I derail the thread even worse:

Player elimination on boardgames isn't really comparable to character death in DnD. For DnD the real question is "how long before you can get back into the game?" which varies a lot between games - even within a single edition.

The conventional wisdom here is: the longer it takes to get back into the game, the more it sucks to be removed from play. And since character death =/= character loss, it can be shorter than making a new character. And there are other variables (ie how stupid <-> satisfying you felt the death was) which can vary a lot as well.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Wow: I dunno. Sunshine and rainbows are great but if I am playing D&D much of the thrill is the fear of and avoidance of some sort of loss.

I return... AGAIN.. to the OP. This is about fear of death as motivation.

As you reach the top of the first hill of a roller coaster, and go over that drop, yes there's a thrill. Nobody's saying that isn't there, or isn't fun.

That's separate from what it actually gets people to do, if anything.

If you know you can win every fight without a consequence does the fight matter?

So... time and time again, it has been noted that death is not the only possible consequence.

If what you are here to do is to beat the same old strawman drum, and say, "BUT I LIKE DEATH!!!" I really think you should go find a thread in which you can take some constructive part.
 
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Well, Monopoly is rank 20,535 out of 20,542 ranked games on BoardGameGeek, so calling that a paragon of good design doesn't seem like a strong argument. It's better than The Game of Life (rank 20,536), so I guess it's not the worst.


But I'll abstain on Diplomacy. I've never played it and it's ranked 614 (top 3% of all games), so either the mechanic is used well or the game's so good one flaw isn't worth mentioning.

(Although the most recent review I could find notes that "You need 7 players who are simultaneously ruthless and congenial, are willing to sacrifice half a day and are okay with practically guaranteed player elimination." Not an endorsement of the mechanic.)

Monopoly is old, yes, but ranking is not a sign of drowning out its innovation. For its time, every board game designer would agree, it could not be touched and indeed revealed the path of how to innovate for future games. Putting it in a proper design perspective is important; and most modern day players, just like then, play their own games and gravitate away from the "old" and to the new as part of the socialization aspect among peers (thus, even, OLD and NEW School in our Hobby which I do not concur with for good reasons, a total other subject). It is, however, I believe, still the best-selling game of all time.

You'd have to play Diplomacy to understand and appreciate it.
 

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